Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is best known for the mystical minimalist style he developed in the late 1970s. While pivotal works from this period are included here, this disc's special value is the glimpse it gives of where Pärt was coming from before he simplified his style. His Symphony no. 3 from 1971 contains many premonitions of the austere, quasi-religious music to come: unaccompanied Gregorian chant-like melodies, for example, and the punctuation of bells. But the Symphony also has a wider range of expression, color and dramatic contrasts, sharing a seriousness of purpose with Pärt's later works, but in a manner more akin to Shostakovich.
This seminal disc now almost seems like the manifesto for a whole new strain of minimalism that has found an enormously receptive audience. It represented a breakthrough for Estonian composer Arvo Part, whose music–like that of his European colleagues John Tavener and Henryk Gуrecki–pursues an austerely beautiful simplicity that suggests spiritual illumination. Fratres, given here in two versions, one for piano and violin and the other for 12 cellos, repeatedly intones a sequence resembling chant to convey a sensibility that seems at once archaic and beyond time. Violinist Gidon Kremer, for whom Part wrote the exquisitely contemplative and hypnotic title work, grasps the music's koan-like idiom, allowing an inner fullness to resonate through the most fragile, ethereal wisps of tone against the mysterious clangings of prepared piano.
The music of Arvo Part contains a message which appeals to the deepest spiritual needs of our time.Neeme Jarvi
This disc of music by Arvo Pärt offers a generous representative sampling of his orchestral and chamber works from early in his holy minimalist (or, as he preferred, tintinnabuli) phase, mostly from the late 1970s but some as late as 1990. The pieces include some of his most popular works, notably Fratres (which exists in nearly a dozen incarnations), Spiegel in Spiegel (of which there are nearly half as many versions), Summa, and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.
With Litany, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt created one of his most stirring works: a nearly 23-minute-long composition for orchestra and vocal ensemble based on the 24 prayers of St. John Chrysostom (one for each hour of the day). Commissioned for the 25th Oregon Bach Festival, the composition is both memorable and timeless. It finds influences in everything from chant to the repetition of modern minimalism. Play it loudly and the striking vocals of the Hilliard Ensemble simply soar against the strings of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. The orchestral Trisagion harkens toward Litany's mood swings and impact, but–sans voice–lacks the mysticism. One of Pärt's best, and as sacred as modern compositions come.
The disc contains moving choral music written by two of the most significant composers of the 20th century. At its world premiere in 1986, Alfred Schnittke's Concerto for Chorus was said to be revolutionary, whilst Arvo Pärt remains one of the most popular composers of the present day.
Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices, like the Hilliard Ensemble with whom he was associated before settling in America, have given the music of Arvo Part a prominent place in their repertoire. Hillier has also written a book on Part – from which his notes accompanying this CD are mostly drawn (The Music of Arvo Part; OUP: 1997) – and in the collective interview run in last September’s issue (page 14) he described his first encounter with several of Part’s scores, “Something leapt out at me: this was the kind of music I had been waiting to perform”.
This is serial composition, or variation. The first 8 tracks are the same work in 8 very different styles. See if you even notice it is the same piece. Different instruments, and arpeggios. I like it all. The first and the 8 Cellos version are perhaps my favorites, if you do not want them all. Also the 2nd track, a hard almost scratchy arpeggio version. I am getting into Arvo Part a little more now, though this is more or less his "Bolero"; a signature piece that builds on a rather simple, repeating theme, which is not like anything else by him- or anyone else. Well, you have to love a Soviet era composer who when the authorities began to annoy him, rather than cower or placate them with what they asked for, became more religious and started a series of variations (according to the liner notes, 2 taboos they warned him about). Gulag or bust? Well he's still around.
The brief opening piece for chorus on this new release, "Da Pacem Domine," is based on a 9th century Gregorian work and has the usual, familiar–and very beautiful–Pärt-ian characteristics: a soft, endless stream of easy tritones and harmonies that make this plea for peace immensely moving. The major work, Lamentate, is scored for large orchestra and solo piano–a very unusual combination for Pärt. Even his fans will be surprised. In ten brief sections, it begins with a quiet drum roll, immediately followed by horn calls. There are forte explosions for full orchestra and piano, with heavy percussion. At times the only thing we hear is a hushed piano part with strings supporting very quietly. The effect is dark yet alluring. It ends peacefully. This is another stunning CD of Pärt's music for his fans–old and new.